Since my schedule is pretty bloody crowded lately, and since I know we all get a kick out of words, in general, I thought I'd repost (with a few little additions/edits) a blog I wrote in July 2006, which was a few months before I actually told anyone I had a blog. It's a fun one, though!
So I’m in the process of mapping out my next series of books, and I’ve been reflecting on how important and evocative names are. I mean, a romance hero is more likely to be named Lord Derek Rockhard than Lord Percy Throckmorton, though I suppose Lord Derek Rockhard could be masquerading as Lord Percy Throckmorton by day and robbing the rich to give to the poor by night or something (and no, that isn’t the plot of my next book). But a whole host of things, some subtle, some overt, some singular, influence the way we feel about a name—among them strong consonant sounds, ingrained assumptions, and whether or not someone named Derek dumped us for our best friend in high school. So naming characters is a funny little science.
I love metaphor and symbolism in general and I always sort of reflexively look for it, so I’ve always been fascinated how strangely prophetic or poetic names often turn out to be. There's my own last name, for instance, which is both an adjective and a verb, and because I was tall all through Junior High and high school (and remain somewhat tall), my P.E. teachers always called me "Julie Short!" And then there's, for example, Helen Gurley Brown, the founder and Editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine. “Gurley” sounds like “girly.” And how much more “girly” can you get than Cosmo? Or…Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue. When pronounced correctly, her name contains two very powerful words—“win” and “tower”— and she certainly towers in her industry. And remember that incident a few years ago, where 118 men were trapped in a Russian submarine and died? That submarine was called the Kursk, which sounds an awful lot like “cursed” to me. When I walk down the main street in my neighborhood I pass the offices of Dr. Chu the dentist and Dr. Vu the optometrist. I recently noticed that the last name of the wardrobe designer for one of my favorite television shows is “Rayment,” like “raiment.” And do I really have to mention Lorena Bobbitt, who's infamous for, er..."bobbing" it? Anyway, it’s kind of fun to think about.
And because I can never leave well enough alone and always end up digging a little deeper no matter what I’m doing, I like playing with the Anagram Genius, which can be both hilarious and downright eerie. If you haven’t heard of it, when you plug your name into the Anagram Genius it returns words and sentences created from the letters of your name. Here’s a fun example of what happens: I plugged my agent’s name into the Anagram Genius, and it returned the words “trade,” “love,” and “novel,” among other intriguing selections. And since his “trade” involves selling romance novels, I thought this was pretty bloody funny. Maybe he was born to do it.
During the infamous dog mauling trial here in San Francisco a few years ago (two people were on trial for murder because their enormous dogs killed a San Francisco woman), I plugged the name of the defendant, Marjorie Knoller, into the Anagram Genius, and one of the words it returned was “killer.” A little shiver, there.
My own name, sadly, contains words like “alien,” “jungle” and “nun,” which might go a long way toward explaining something, but I'm not sure what. It doesn't sound particularly encouraging, actually. I should have changed my name to Julie Anne Filthyrich long ago. (or Or Julie Anne Buythisbook.)
Here’s what comes up when you plug the names of a few celebrities or historical figures into the Anagram Genius:
Albert Einstein—Ten Elite Brains
Jerry Seinfeld—Friendly Jeers
George Clooney—Energy, Cool Ego
Hugh Laurie—Hail! He Guru!
Simon Cowell—Lemon! I scowl!
Jon Stewart—Jest now, rat.
Michael Jackson—Manacle His Jock
Jennifer Aniston—Fine in torn jeans
Nelson Mandela—Lean and Solemn
Elizabeth Barrett Browning—Now brazen battier blighter.
Ashton Kutcher—Suck her hot tan
Angelina Jolie—I join anal glee
Anderson Cooper—Coarsened Porno
Gabrial Garcia Marquez—Quiz Magic, Rare Algebra
Henry David Thoreau—Another heavy druid. (love this one!)
Emily Bronte—Timely boner.
(The program came up with these, folks. I'm just reporting them.)
So I thought you might have some fun playing with the Anagram Genius…the link will take you to a page with a light sample version of the program. You can download a larger trial version if you really get into it. Tell me if you come up with some funny anagrams, and if they fit you! Try plugging in a bunch of names. And do you know of any really fun or prophetic names?